A lot of people — starting with the Consumers’ Association of Canada. They’ve spoken out in favour of public insurance. And they’ve called private car insurance one of the biggest rip-offs that Canadians face.
The Insurance Brokers Association of BC, the people who sell insurance to drivers, also support keeping public insurance. And so do the front-line workers at ICBC, who see first-hand the value and community benefits that the public insurer provides every day.
People living in British Columbia in the early 1970s and prior before the introduction of ICBC will remember the days when private insurance companies ruled and the exorbitant prices they had to pay.
There’s a well-funded campaign against public insurance, backed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada. That name may sound like it’s a government agency, but it’s actually the lobby group for the big, multinational insurance companies.
And joining them is the secretive Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, a right-wing lobby group that regularly campaigns against public services.
And after 16 years of mismanaging ICBC and driving our rates higher and higher, the BC Liberals are now pushing privatization – making you wonder if that was their goal all along.
For one thing, stability. Since we all own ICBC, you never have to worry that your insurance company may suddenly close up shop, the way companies have in Alberta and Ontario.
And ICBC does more than just provide insurance. They provide services like drivers’ licensing, road tests, road safety initiatives and more. And ICBC employs nearly 6,000 people across the province, contributing back to the local economy in communities big and small.
Until 2012, ICBC’s rates were sustainable.
In 2010, the governing BC Liberals passed a bill allowing them to take surplus funds from ICBC and put that money on the government’s accounting books. That made the government’s finances look rosier… but it effectively robbed ICBC of all its cashflow. That forced ICBC to raise basic insurance rates just to stay financially stable.
The new NDP government has made changes to get the public insurer back on a healthy financial footing. Those changes include premium increases, but they also increase health and medical benefits for those injured in an accident, settle claims more quickly by cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy and legal red-tape, and modernize how insurance premiums are calculated so good drivers don’t have to cover the costs for bad or dangerous drivers.
In a public system, everybody deals with the public insurer: ICBC. When a claim gets filed, they deal with the same company that handles the claim from start to finish.
In a private system, you must deal with separate insurance companies. The different insurance companies (in a multi-car accident there can be three or more!) then wrangle over who pays what and to whom. The end result? It takes a lot longer to settle claims, and requires more effort from drivers. And it’s a lot more expensive — costs that companies pass on in higher premiums.